Today marked the beginning of the end for the Stern era of Basketball. David Stern, current NBA commissioner, announced the end of his 30-year reign over the NBA.
The NBA did grow under Stern. TV deals were signed, stars were born and franchises saw major financial growth. That doesn’t mean that fans didn’t hate him.
Commissioner Stern gave basketball faithfuls many reasons to despise the way the league was ran. Consequently, he became one of the most despised commissioners in professional sports.
Here are the top 10 reasons why NBA fans hate commissioner David Stern:
1. The 2011 League Lockout
The league locked out for five months and the season was shortened to 66 regular season games plus playoffs. Regardless of the pigheaded nature of owners and the players, it is the commissioner’s job to make sure that the game gets played. Stern did not do his job and fans of the game suffered.
2. 1985 Draft Lottery Fix
If the NBA has its own version of the Zapruder film, this is it. During the 1985 draft lottery, envelopes with team names in it were placed in a giant spinning wheel. The order that the cards were picked was the order that the league would draft. People believe that one of these envelopes was purposely bent so that Stern would know which card to chose in order to give the Knicks the first overall pick in the draft. This claim is a bit conspiracy-theory-esque, but the video does give some evidence to support the theory. One of the cards is clearly bent, and Stern does seem to deliberately choose the card with the bend. The Knicks won the draft lotto and selected Patrick Ewing with the first overall pick.
3. 1999 League Lockout
In 1999 the league locked our for over six months. The season had to be shortened to 50 regular season games plus playoffs. Another example of Stern not doing his job.
4. 2012 Draft Lottery Scandal and Response to Jim Rome
Stern was the target of NBA conspiracy theorists during the 2012 NBA draft. It all started when the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets won the 2012 NBA draft despite having fewer entrees than the Bobcats, Wizards and Cavs.
Stern was asked about rumors of a draft fix during an interview on the Jim Rome show. He responded by saying “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” This will go down as one of the most unprofessional moments in sporting history.
5. Clear Bias Toward Bigger-City Markets and Bigger Stars
Without going into too much detail about how this happens, EVERY SINGLE NBA final since 1980 has had one of the following teams:
Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, or San Antonio Spurs.
Every one of those finals has also featured one of the following players:
Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, or Lebron James
Talent plays a huge role in that but one cannot ignore the feeling of bias towards the “1%” of NBA players and teams.
6. 2002 Western Conference Finals Fix
There is a strongly held belief that the NBA snatched a title away from the Sacramento Kings back in 2002. Go to the tape and it becomes painfully obvious that LA won the series because of the refs and not because they were the better team. LA won the first game of the series, the Kings then won the second and third games. The controversy started in game 4 when LA defeated the Kings by 1 point when LA should have lost to them by two points. The “ref fix” buzz started when LA was awarded a 3rd quarter 3-pointer that clearly was released after the buzzer. The kings rallied back and took game 5, this gave them a 3-2 series lead. Then something really weird happened, the referee lineup was announced for game 6. Former NBA ref, Tim Donaghy wrote in his book:
“As soon as the referees for the game were chosen, the rest of us [other NBA refs] knew immediately there would be a Game 7.”
In an article the the Daily Beast, Donaghy was asked to elaborate. He told them that:
“Bavetta (an NBA ref who reffed game 6) would always say he was the NBA’s ‘go to guy’ and he would always help make the series go another game … he said [this] to me before the game in L.A.”
To give you a perspective of how much this game was fixed, the Lakers shot 27 free throw attempts in the 3rd frame. Sacramento shot 9. LA shot 40 total while the Kings were awarded only 25. The game was soo poorly officiated that Ralph Nader got involved.
The Lakers won a close game 7 to take the series. LA might have won game 7 in a better reffed game but the taste of game 6 lingered for the Kings’ fans. Game 6 of the 2002 western conference finals will go down as one of the most controversial matches in league history.
7. Chris Paul Trade Controversy
A 3-way-trade (involving NBA star, Chris Paul) between the Hornets, LA and Houston was blocked back in 2011. Although owners voting to “block” a trade is not unheard of, a commissioner blocking a trade is downright spotting-of-the-Loch-Ness-Monster caliber rare. Bill Simmons said it best on Grantland:
“This was Big Brother stuff. This was one of the biggest conflicts of interest in sports history. This was a league intentionally jeopardizing its own credibility. This was a scandal popping out of thin air, self-created, almost like a man-made lake or something.”
8. He Has Screwed With The Flow of the Game
Stern didn’t oversee rule changes that affected the play of the game, he did however instruct refs to mess with the flow of the game. Stricter fouls and a “no tolerance” rule for player complaints to refs have drastically altered the NBA for the worse. 2 Points are still awarded for a basket and 3 if they are behind the line but the real change comes in the mindset and flow of the game. Players are now punished (and not rewarded) for making a great play that is too physical. To make matters worse, they then can’t argue the call at the risk of getting a technical foul.
9. He Introduced a Ball that No One Liked
In 2005 David Stern decided to introduce a new “microfiber” ball to be used during NBA play. Too bad he didn’t tell the players.
The ball was a disaster and immediate outcry came from the players to give back their old ball back. They claimed the new ball became slippery when wet, bounced awkwardly and even gave players cuts on their hands.
The League went back to leather basketballs in 2007.
10. Mandatory NBA Dress Code
The NBA was the first league to implement a mandatory dress code for players arriving and leaving NBA games. The most awkward part about this law is that there is a weird racial undertone to this rule. Many claim that the rule was made to limit hip hop’s influence in the NBA, an influence that is more seen in black athletes than white ones. Allen Iverson was one of the more outspoken opponents to the dress code:
“They’re targeting my generation — the hip-hop generation,” Iverson said in a television interview. You can put a murderer in a suit and he’s still a murderer.”
Eitan Levine is a New York City based comic. Follow him on Twitter at @Eitanthegoalie .